Spain’s Rafael Nadal continued his steady progression through the Australian Open draw with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory Wednesday over Germany’s Tommy Haas in second-round play, while Colombian Alejandro Falla scored the first big upset of the tournament by knocking off American Mardy Fish.
Nadal did not sail through the match quite as smoothly as he did in the first round against American Alex Kuznetsov, mainly because he was up against a better-quality opponent in the veteran Haas, who served well and looked at times like the player who reached the semifinals of this Grand Slam event in 1999, 2002 and 2007.
The match had the makings of a rout when the Spaniard raced off to a quick 5-1 lead out of the gates, but the 33-year-old Haas, the oldest player in the men’s draw, settled down and won the next three games and had a break point in the tenth game before dropping the first set 6-4.
After Nadal took a two-set lead by applying steady pressure to Haas’s one-handed backhand, the German finally jumped ahead on the scoreboard by taking an early lead in the third set.
In the end, however, the Spaniard’s baseline prowess and younger legs proved too much as he got the break back and then another one later in the set to put the match away.
“I had a very bad game in the beginning of the third,” Nadal said in the post-match press conference. “After that, the set is in trouble. If you don’t have the break back next game, you will be fighting all the set to try to come back. Finally I did.”
“I think (Haas) played well. He played aggressive. He played with very good second serves. For moments, his first serve was really difficult to read. I think he played well.”
In other action Wednesday, Colombia’s Alejandro Falla scored the biggest upset thus far in the men’s draw when he ousted American Mardy Fish, the world No. 8, by a score of 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
The Colombian lefty played aggressively from the outset, remaining rock-solid throughout with his backhand and pressuring the forehand of the American, who committed numerous unforced errors on key points, particularly in the third-set tiebreaker.
“He’s a good player,” Fish, who committed 58 unforced errors, said after the match. “He was up two sets to love against Roger (Federer) at (the 2010) Wimbledon (before losing in five sets). The guy can play. I wasn’t shocked that I was in that position (of down two sets), but ... you’ve got to battle. You’ve got to fight. I tried but it didn’t work out.”
In other results involving Spanish and Latin American players, Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, the 10th seed, outlasted up-and-coming Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-0, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, the No. 11 seed, defeated Slovenian Blaz Kavcic 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 and 18th-seed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez ousted Italy’s Flavio Cipolla 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.
Argentina’s David Nalbandian came up short in a marathon match against big-serving American John Isner, falling 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 10-8, Spain’s Pere Riba retired while being trounced 6-0, 4-0 by Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber and Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq lost to towering Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In women’s second-round action Wednesday, Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues, the No. 26 seed clobbered Belarus’ Olga Kovortsova 6-1, 6-0 and Argentina’s Paula Ormaechea fell to Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 8 seed, 6-3, 6-1.
The Australian Open is regarded as tennis’ fourth-most prestigious tournament after Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the French Open.